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Art In Motion

“…it’s easy sometimes to forget the simple things that give us pleasure. If we open our eyes, life is marvelous. “

-Seward Johnson

During the fall of last year, I visited Grounds For Sculpture to witness the multi-sensory experience by Klip Collective called “Night Forms: Dreamloop.” What makes this installation extra special is that it can only be viewed at night. The combination of art, nature, and unique projections uses light to transform the sculptures into an immersive experience. Their use of shape, color, and surrounding nature sparked something within me, and I began meditating on the inspiration that led me to create my brand.

My father, Seward Johnson, wanted to create a public space for visitors to immerse themselves within. His vision had a profound impact on many aspects of my life, but especially in the way that I grew to view and create art. As I began to embark on my own complex creative journey toward becoming a fashion designer, I envisioned developing physical pieces of wearable art.

My first collection, Samuda, was most inspired by the sea, the graceful creatures that inhabit it, and the way they move. My initial motivation for painting designs was my need and desire to create in two different styles: sharp clarity, and soft fluidity. I enjoy expressing this contrast with crisp, clear, lines as a potent combination with the vibrant colors that I choose to highlight duality. As I continue creating new collections, I find such inspiration in how the designs and the fabric flow as one, as if they are dancing.

For 16 years, Grounds For Sculpture has collaborated and worked with The Outlet Dance Project to showcase incredibly choreographed dance productions. Last June, they held a special performance, with incredibly dynamic dances inspired by four of my father’s sculptures as a tribute and celebration of his life.

I first found a love for dance at a young age when I used to practice ballet, modern, and jazz. I loved incorporating these different methods and often combining them to develop a hybrid form. This variety of training allowed me to appreciate the action rather than memorize specific choreography. Each type of dance has a unique purpose for the way the body is flexed, pointed, and positioned. It is captivating to feel and witness the way that a body can create shapes that appear so effortless.

These exhibitions were two different visual experiences where I found myself transported by the unique ways that art can be in motion. I was captivated by how movement can create a contrasting duality with light, color, and shape. I wrote a blog post about Magic Hour Photography that discusses these same ideas of capturing light in specific moments through a photographer’s lens. However, when applied to my approach to creating designs for my brand, all these different facets of inspiration have the same setting: within nature.

Photography is capturing the movement of a moment. However, a photograph of a dancer is but a small glimpse of the experience. As it was with the moving projections against the stoic statues, and the touching performance at my father’s memorial ceremony, it is the entire presentation that leaves a lasting memory. I don't think back on each step the dancer took; I remember how the final performance was in harmony with a beautiful summer evening. I don’t just recall a single color from the “Night Forms” installation, I remember how the trees looked like they had mosaic images stretched across them. These immersive scenes of art in nature are what inspire me to continue evolving as an artist and designer.

As I continue to develop new designs, I enjoy taking these sacred moments to pause and think about what led me down this path toward becoming a fashion designer. Creating a brand that celebrates artistic expression is what I am most passionate about since I began this journey and I look forward to sharing more with you as I learn and grow as a designer.

If you are interested, please check out the Grounds for Sculpture website where you can find news about exhibitions, community programs, and further information about the park. Every time I visit it is a new experience of inspiration and a deeper appreciation for all forms of art.

Thanks for reading,

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Nelson Richards Trenner
Nelson Richards Trenner

I really like the way you express one central theme—the making and meaning of art in your life—by weaving together separate yet compatible strands of experience. The strands include your love of dance, photography, and fashion design. your father's inspiration as a role model to you and other members of your family, and his inspiration to people around the world through his focus on making sculpture as well as through his founding and building of Grounds for Sculpture. Speaking of "Grounds," the photographs of "Night Forms: Dream Loop"—the magical light and sculpture show there earlier this year—are also "magical!"


Thank you so much for your lovely words about my post. Your support means so much. The “Night Forms: Dreamloop” exhibition was incredibly beautiful. I hope that you were able to see it!

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